Clemson’s Cole Stoudt gets 2nd chance to start

CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) Quarterback Cole Stoudt is ready for his second chance to lead No. 24 Clemson.

While he was angry and disappointed about losing the starting job, he didn’t pout or quit.

Stoudt had started the first three games for the Tigers (4-2, 3-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) before talented, five-star phenom Deshaun Watson took over behind center. Now, Stoudt’s back and will start at Boston College (4-2, 1-1) Saturday after Watson broke a finger in his right hand early in a win over Louisville last week.

For Stoudt, this is a chance to finish his senior season strong after it looked like it would end with mop-up duties and mostly watching Watson from the sideline.

Stoudt could’ve folded, but stayed sharp to be prepared if this opportunity to play came along.

”It was tough,” he said. ”I had a mindset there were only two different ways to handle this.”

He said one was to just say forget this, and walk away, ”and the other was you can go in and make a difference. ”You can stay a senior leader and step up and improve others around you. That’s what I did.”

Stoudt was still hurting from a shoulder injury he got late in a 41-0 win over North Carolina State two weeks ago when Watson went down. Offensive coordinator Chad Morris and coach Dabo Swinney asked Stoudt if he could play through the pain – and Stoudt wasn’t going to let this pass him by. He passed for 162 yards on 20 of 33 passing. He led the Tigers on three second-half field goal drives, all essential in a 23-17 victory over Louisville.

”There were a bunch of guys saying they were proud of me and saying I was a gladiator for how I stuck through the game,” Stoudt said. ”I’m happy because it shows what kind of team we have.”

It shows plenty about Stoudt, too.

The son of former NFL passer Cliff Stoudt signed with Clemson after considering Arizona State, Cincinnati, Colorado and other schools. Stoudt became the backup to redshirt sophomore Tajh Boyd his first year in 2011 and began patiently waiting for his time to lead.

Stoudt thought it had arrived after the 2012 season after Boyd’s stellar performance as a junior, including a Chick-Fil-A Bowl MVP that drove up his NFL draft stock. Instead, Boyd returned for his final year and Stoudt gladly welcomed him back and prepared for another year on the sidelines.

Stoudt won the starting job in spring practice and carried that into the fall. But Clemson coach Dabo Swinney and offensive coordinator Chad Morris chose to give Watson playing time in each game and the young dual-threat passer did not disappoint.

Through two games, it was Watson who had more yards and TD passes than Stoudt and it was no surprise when at Florida State when Watson came in after the first three series, Stoudt did not get back in.

Stoudt ”didn’t lose the job by playing bad, he lost the job by the other guy being elite,” Swinney said. ”We have all the confidence in the world in Cole. We don’t have any doubt that he’s capable of being an excellent division one starter and this is an important opportunity for him.”

Morris said should Stoudt play strongly the next month with Watson sidelined, the senior could keep the job once the freshman is healthy.

”A lot is going to be determined the next few weeks,” Morris said.

Boston College coach Steve Addazio thinks Clemson’s offense has run well with Stoudt. ”He’s a talented guy and he throws the ball well,” he said. ”Schematically, they pose a fair amount of problems.”

Defensive tackle DeShawn Williams, a senior who came in with Stoudt, empathized when his classmate went to the bench and said everyone on the team is gratified with his latest chance.

”We believe in Cole,” Williams said. ”We just let him know that his brothers have his back.”

Stoudt leaned on his dad, the rest of his family, friends and teammates to stay positive. ”It’s your senior year,” he said. ”You don’t have to have a setback of doubts about your play. I’ve put that behind me. I’ve moved on.”

Right back behind center for the Tigers.